From Philipsburg to Martinsdale, Drummond to Jordan, and everywhere in between, here are some of Montana's best local eateries. 

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On the east end of Main Street in Bozeman’s thriving downtown, where boutiques and galleries mingle with hip bars and restaurants, there’s a gem that still functions, as if untouched by time, as a relic of the old West. Here, at the Western Cafe, classic swivel diner stools are lined up against the counter, typically filled with regular customers. Behind, a pie cooler displays the day’s picks and the kitchen is visible off to the side with the original twirling ticket holder still in use and the sizzling sounds of bacon and eggs coinciding with the chatter of a full house.

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On a chilly February evening in 1997, Dean Mitchell tugged on a string to light up a beer sign hanging in the window of an old yellow house on Main Street in the sleepy town of Willow Creek, Montana. It still worked, even though the cafe and saloon had been closed for more than two years. He’d received a beer delivery that day, dusted off the antique wooden bar, and put the bar stools into position. Now all he needed was a customer.

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There is nothing like getting on Interstate 90 and cruising 80 mph without traffic. On this day, my husband and I headed west from Billings to the Gallatin River Lodge. Over the years we had made hundreds of trips to Big Sky, but had never turned at the distinctive sign of a cowboy riding a trout, a few miles south on Jackrabbit Lane in Bozeman. The paved road turned to gravel, guiding us to a 20-acre meadow where the log-hewn building sat amidst views of towering mountains, bordered by the Gallatin River and an inviting pond.

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Up a meandering lane in the shade of native serviceberry bushes, organic farmer Jayce Rothschiller of Bozeman, Montana’s Gallatin Valley Botanical (G.V.B.) leads a tour. Mellifluous Bear Creek flows nearby. In front of a 10-acre vegetable field she stops. The fit fortysomething appears more down-to-earth than the tony group trailing behind her on the dirt road. Yet, however out of place they may appear, these folks have come because they value good soil and healthful food.

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At Montgomery Distillery in Missoula, proprietors Jenny and Ryan Montgomery distill top-shelf spirits. They tap pure aquifer water and their family’s deep roots in agriculture to concentrate the essence of Montana into small-batch vodka, gin, and whiskey (their primary mission). Four years after they produced their first batch of vodka, they released a two-year old, American oak cask, straight 100% rye whiskey called Sudden Wisdom. It ages in casks and a batch is released each year.

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